Growing up, my only real knowledge of wrestling came from the cathode screen on Saturday mornings with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper. They were pajama heroes with comrades such as the A-Team’s Mr.T , He-Man and the insatiably clever McGyver.
However, when recently discussing the perils of the artistic pursuits and external validation with a friend of mine, she told me about her brother who was an artist, and also someone who was actively pursuing their dream of becoming a professional wrestler.
And thus, the lack of professional wrestling as being a part of my life, ceased to exist.
On his Instagram feed, @thatsgottaberod, @lostentertainment Krod showed the journey of a man who had rebuilt himself. A man that was willing to be vulnerable in the public domain and cast aside any ideas of toxic masculinity that pro wrestling or any professional sport may deem to wear as a cape. After a period of depression and weight gain, he visually documented his journey to physical fitness and mental prowess through the power of wrestling.
I was deeply moved by his honesty and decided to paint him.
I have never really tried to paint from real life, scary cats and brain scans were much more my cup of tea. However, I am constantly trying to improve my technical talents and artistic abilities and thought that a man, dressed as a super villain in a full-face mask, might be the stepping stone I needed to improve my technical talents as well as inspire a new direction with my work.
So, I began.
After the first piece was complete, I contacted K-rod. Trying my best to not sound like a creepy on-line stalker was the first step, but having a fan do fan art is apparently something people are able to warm to. He was thrilled and delighted and proved to be an excellent and willing subject. After the first 3 acrylic pieces were complete. I decided to tackle another angle, this time using oils for the first time in 20 years.
I soon learned that there is a reason I stopped painting in oils. I have a fairly violent reaction to turpentine and white spirit. I had forgotten that I had given myself industrial poisoning 20 years ago and just the mere sniff of turpentine makes me vomit. However, not one to be easily unnerved I installed an extraction fan in the studio, bought some latex gloves and got me a proper fancy chemical-solvent face mask and carried on.
I was fortunate enough to attend a @chrisguestartist painting workshop in early December. I adore Chris’s work. He has a controlled fluidity in his work with vivid and dynamic colour schemes. Plus he paints beautiful tattooed women, scantily clad, so what’s not to love. Chris’s workshop focused on values on tones. Apparently using value and tone as a guide in art work are the key components to making eye pleasing work. This was absolute news to me and not to mention an absolute game changer to how I now consciously visually interpret and explore the work that I create.
Painting from pictures is fine and all, but I now I needed to go and attend a proper wrestling match and to actually meet K-Rod in person.
The Lucha Brittania show totally blew me away. It championed any childhood ideas I had of wrestling and made it all that more glorious. However, it could be that Lucha is a cut above the rest and completely inimitable. It was jaw dropping, cringe filled with energy and one of the most pro-women, pro-sex appeal, all strength and vitality shows I have ever seen. A full-on embodiment of positive self-actualization in a theatrical display of good versus evil. From the comperes that drive the show’s narrative to the intermission acts that uphold the madness and beauty of it all. The show is larger than its parts and felt like a living breathing organism, a talisman for creativity and strength. Oh, and there was lots of wrestling.
There is something to be said for men (and a few women) of all shapes, sizes and strengths running around in barely there sequined costumes, battling it out in a wrestling ring and sometimes being thrown from it, that truly gets you feeling alive. It was an absolute joy.
Lucha Britainnia is a unique experience and one I would fully recommend.
So now I got to meet KROD and really understand what it was about, it gave me a whole new appreciation for heroic intensity of Lucha as well as the huge mental and physical health benefits that wrestling and training to be in the ring has. Lucha had a real sense of community, although I went on my own, everyone was very friendly, like you were walking into a family who have found each other through their passion and wanted everyone in on the fun.
I completed the oil painting, I have a few things to learn about painting tattoos on flesh, but it’s not a bad start. Next, I’d like to do a larger scale piece. Also, am thinking of the logistics of what it would be like to have a drawing class ring side. Moving on from the stoic stillness of painting nudes, would it be possible to live draw wrestlers?
Meeting Krod was an absolute joy. A really lovely bloke in the flesh. On our second meeting, I was able to gift him in appreciation a print of top 3 painting I had done of him. Prints I may sell on the website at some stage, with a percentage of going either to Lucha or a charity in the community of their choosing.
Krod’s mantra is THE WORLD IS YOURS. The openness to possibility, to attain great heights is a lesson we may all benefit from, whether that height is from the top of a ring rope or not. Persistance is all.
Lucha Britannia homes itself at the Resistance Gallery 265 Poyser Street, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9RF, a body slam away from Bethnal Green tube. Each third Friday of the month they stage an explosive show, 10,000 volts of sexy mayhem to be precise. On top of their monthly extravaganza’s they hold space for London Lucha School, 3 weekly wrestling training classes for beginners, intermediate and athletic level sessions.